North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing two and wounding 19. South Korea has mobilized its military and is threatening retaliation.
The massive artillery barrage launched by North Korea on Tuesday forced its southern neighbor into a state of emergency, with fighter jets put on high alert and the Seoul government threatening “stern retaliation.”
An estimated 1,700 civilian residents of the area shelled by North Korea escaped to bunkers, while South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting of security ministers. Television footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the island of Yeonpyeong, which lies near the disputed maritime border separating North and South Korea.
Officials said the North had fired an estimated 200 artillery shells onto Yeonpyeong, which lies in the Yellow Sea about 72 miles west of Seoul and seven miles off the North Korean mainland. Most of the shells landed on a military base, killing two South Korean marines, wounding at least 19 other people and setting more than 60 buildings ablaze.
The South returned fire with about 80 shells from its own howitzers.
In an official statement, government spokesman Hong Sang-pyo called the North’s action a “clear military provocation.” In the United States, a White House spokesman said President Obama was “outraged” by North Korea’s “provocative” action, adding that the nation stands by South Korea.